On substance it is clear that John McCain won the second presidential debate. However, he missed an opportunity to really rock Obama and reverse the current direction of the polls. I'll admit McCain was hampered by Brokaw's poorly moderating the debate, and in effect killing the town hall aspect of it. This was problematic in that Brokaw either intentionally or unintentionally swung the debate in Obama's favor, by basically reducing it to a boring recitation of campaign talking points on both sides.
That said, let's go to the tape as football coaches are want to do and look at some of McCain's missed opportunities. First off regarding the economic crisis, as soon as Obama blamed eight years of deregulation McCain should have landed his first haymaker. Specifically point out that the President took over a weakening economy from Bill Clinton with 0.9% growth in Clinton's last quarter in office. He then should have pointed out how the strong Bush economy not only survived 9/11, but prospered for many years. Then he should have named names in the Fannie and Freddie crisis and pointed out how much money these culprits took and their connection to Obama. For example, let's take Frank Raines. He testified under oath that these subprime mortgages were "riskless", took a $90 million golden parachute, and now is one of Obama's top advisers. McCain finally mentioned Fannie and Freddie and his roll in calling for regulation, but he failed to really press the issue. This was a tactical mistake.
Second, on the issue of Iraq he needed to remind everyone of the horrors of Saddam Hussein, his opponent's namesake. From there, McCain could have pointed out that Bill Clinton and many leading Democrats all believed that Saddam had WMDs and called for his ouster. He also could have pointed out that Saddam was committing genocide while Obama was silent, which also would have had the added benefit of destroying Obama's argument about how he would respond to genocide, later in the debate. In his defense, he did adequately lay out the strategy of the surge, but he failed to point out Obama's poor judgement in opposing the war at the outset.
Third, when the question of "your top three priorities" came up with education being one of them, McCain missed a golden opportunity to bring up terrorist Bill Ayers. He should have reminded voters that Ayers took his $50 million Annenberg education grant and gave it to Obama. By the way, just how does a terrorist receive a $50million grant. By doing this, McCain could have easily dispelled the notion that Ayers was just some guy in the neighborhood who Obama knew casually. McCain could have said something like, when was the last time you were out walking your dog and your neighbor stopped you and asked you to distribute $50 million. It would have completely put Obama on the defensive.
Fourth, he should have destroyed Obama on health care. All he had to do is call the Obama plan what it really is, socialized medicine. McCain really flubbed this one. All he had to say is that the Obama plan would ration health care like in Cuba, and if your 70 year old mother needs an operation she has to wait in a long line and not get it. He needed to remind voters that people from all over the world travel to America for medical treatment, because it has the greatest health delivery system in the world. He also could have thrown in a line about greedy trial lawyers like John Edwards, who are major reason for the high cost of health care today.
Finally, McCain hit taxes but not nearly hard enough. What he should have said is that Obama's tax hike in these difficult economic times WILL lead to the second Great Depression.
Nevertheless, we are still in the game and it is only the third quarter. Let's learn from the film. Keep Sarah out there on the attack and get her all over talk radio starting with Rush. Raise the issues stated above at every opportunity. Harp on abortion, judges, gay marriage, and guns. Forget the mainstream media and talk directly to the people. Be proud of Conservatism and fight for it. Speak of the future and point out that Obama's vision is nothing but old, tired Socialism wrapped in a new package and hiding under the cover of "racism". Emphasize American exceptionalism and point out that Obama is not American at his core.
Following this strategy, plus heading immediately to Ft. Dix as Doc Paul so wisely suggests, will lead to a Harry Truman style fourth quarter victory in my humble opinion. Boy, would I pay to see the egg on the faces of the dinosaur media. Priceless!
Open thread: Sunday morning talking heads
49 minutes ago